Portsmouth judge declares mistrial in case involving the death and abuse of a child; to be rescheduled

A Portsmouth judge declared a mistrial in the murder case against a man accused of killing a child in his care.

King Walker was found unresponsive on Feb. 25, 2020. Keilynd Riedel Rice, 30, of Portsmouth, turned himself in about a year after the alleged killing. He was charged with second-degree murder and felony child abuse and neglect, for which he is pleading not guilty. Walker’s age and relation to Rice have not been made public.

Circuit Court Judge Brenda C. Spry declared a mistrial Wednesday after seven potential jurors were “adamant” that their biases with regard to this type of case would prevent them from judging it fairly. After those seven were ruled out, there weren’t enough eligible alternates available to seat 12 jurors, forcing a mistrial.

The prosecution and Rice’s attorney, Shemeka Hankins, will meet to schedule a new date for the trial in April.

Prior to the trial, Spry granted Hankins’ motion to sever the two charges, meaning they will be tried separately, on the basis that evidence likely to be presented relating to the abuse and neglect charge falls outside of the relevant time frame laid out in the direct indictment. The indictment states that both charges stem from events that occurred “on or about” Feb. 25, 2020, which Spry interpreted to mean within 24-48 hours of that date.

An autopsy of the victim, King Walker, determined that his cause of death was a skull fracture that occurred within the relevant timeframe, but also noted other injuries to the child which happened sooner. Rice told investigators that Walker was burned on the arm when he accidentally hit the hot water while bathing him about two weeks prior to Feb. 25, according to Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Bernadine Gerlach, and said neither he nor his wife took Walker to the hospital — only putting Neosporin on the burn and wrapping it.

The autopsy also found a previous skull fracture that “had started to heal” — though it’s unclear when that injury occurred — along with various bruises and cuts, Gerlach said.

While Spry will allow the evidence relating to injuries prior to Feb. 25 to be presented in the murder trial, saying it can speak to intent, motive and pattern of behavior, Gerlach said in an interview after court Wednesday she’s still hopeful it will be allowed in the abuse and neglect trial. The murder trial will be conducted before a jury, while the abuse and neglect trial will not.

Gavin Stone, 757-712-4806, gavin.stone@virginiamedia.com


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